BLACK RHINOS. MOTHER AND ITS BABY CALF. CUB SOUTH AFRICA, BOTSWANA & Zambia The Mosi-O-Tunya National Park 2011

Botswana, Moremi National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Private Reserve, Farm, Chobe National park, Chobe Game Reserve, Zambia, Zambezi River, Livingstone, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Wildlife Conservation Project, Maramba River Lodge, South Africa, Krugger National Park, Okavango Delta, Kalahari region, Kalahari Desert.
Rhinoceros /raɪˈnɒsərəs/, often abbreviated as rhino, is a group of five extant species of knee-less, odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae. Two of these species are native to Africa and three to southern Asia.
Members of the rhinoceros family are characterized by their large size (they are some of the largest remaining megafauna, with all of the species able to reach one tonne or more in weight); as well as by a herbivorous diet; a thick protective skin, 1.5–5 cm thick, formed from layers of collagen positioned in a lattice structure; relatively small brains for mammals this size (400–600 g); and a large horn. They generally eat leafy material, although their ability to ferment food in their hindgut allows them to subsist on more fibrous plant matter, if necessary. Unlike other perissodactyls, the two African species of rhinoceros lack teeth at the front of their mouths, relying instead on their powerful premolar and molar teeth to grind up plant food.[1]
Rhinoceros are killed by humans for their horns, which are bought and sold on the black market, and which are used by some cultures for ornamental or (pseudo-scientific) medicinal purposes. The horns are made of keratin, the same type of protein that makes up hair and fingernails.[2] Both African species and the Sumatran rhinoceros have two horns, while the Indian and Javan rhinoceros have a single horn.
The IUCN Red List identifies three of the species as critically endangered.
The word rhinoceros is derived through Latin from the Ancient Greek: ῥῑνόκερως, which is composed of ῥῑνο- (rhino-, "nose") and κέρας (keras, "horn"). The plural in English is rhinoceros or rhinoceroses. The collective noun for a group of rhinoceroses is crash or herd.
The five living species fall into three categories. The two African species, the white rhinoceros and the black rhinoceros, belong to the Dicerotini group, which originated in the middle Miocene, about 14.2 million years ago. The species diverged during the early Pliocene (about 5 million years ago). The main difference between black and white rhinos is the shape of their mouths – white rhinos have broad flat lips for grazing, whereas black rhinos have long pointed lips for eating foliage.
There are two living Rhinocerotini species, the Indian rhinoceros and the Javan rhinoceros, which diverged from one another about 10 million years ago. The Sumatran rhinoceros is the only surviving representative of the most primitive group, the Dicerorhinini, which emerged in the Miocene (about 20 million years ago).[3] The extinct woolly rhinoceros of northern Europe and Asia was also a member of this tribe.
A subspecific hybrid white rhino (Ceratotherium s. simum × C. s. cottoni) was bred at the Dvůr Králové Zoo (Zoological Garden Dvur Kralove nad Labem) in the Czech Republic in 1977. Interspecific hybridisation of black and white rhinoceros has also been confirmed.[4]
While the black rhinoceros has 84 chromosomes (diploid number, 2N, per cell), all other rhinoceros species have 82 chromosomes.

White rhinoceros
Main article: White rhinoceros
There are two subspecies of white rhino: the southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) and the northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni). In 2007, the southern subspecies had a wild population of 17,480 (IUCN2008) – 16,266 of which were in South Africa – making them the most abundant rhino subspecies in the world. However, the northern subspecies was critically endangered, with as few as four individuals in the wild; the possibility of complete extinction in the wild having been noted since June 2008.[5] Six are known to be held in captivity, two of which reside in a zoo in San Diego. Four born in a zoo in the Czech Republic were transferred to a wildlife refuge in Kenya in December 2009, in an effort to have the animals reproduce and save the subspecies.[6]
There is no conclusive explanation of the name white rhinoceros. A popular theory that "white" is a distortion of either the Afrikaans word weid or the Dutch word wijd (or its other possible spellings whyde, weit, etc.,) meaning wide and referring to the rhino’s square lips is not supported by linguistic studies.[7][8]
The white rhino has an immense body and large head, a short neck and broad chest. This rhino can exceed 3,500 kg (7,700 lb), have a head-and-body length of 3.5–4.6 m (11–15 ft) and a shoulder height of 1.8–2 m (5.9–6.6 ft). The record-sized white rhinoceros was about 4,500 kg (10,000 lb).[9] On its snout it has two horns. The front horn is larger than the other horn and averages 90 cm (35 in) in length and can reach 150 cm (59 in). The white rhinoceros also has a prominent muscular hump that supports its relatively large head. The colour of this animal can range from yellowish brown to slate grey. Most of its body hair is found on the ear fringes and tail bristles, with the rest distributed rather sparsely over the rest of the body. White rhinos have the distinctive flat broad mouth that is used for grazing.

Black rhinoceros
Main article: Black rhinoceros
The name black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) was chosen to distinguish this species from the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). This can be confusing, as the two species are not really distinguishable by color. There are four subspecies of black rhino: South-central (Diceros bicornis minor), the most numerous, which once ranged from central Tanzania south through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to northern and eastern South Africa; South-western (Diceros bicornis bicornis) which are better adapted to the arid and semi-arid savannas of Namibia, southern Angola, western Botswana and western South Africa; East African (Diceros bicornis michaeli), primarily in Tanzania; and West African (Diceros bicornis longipes) which was declared extinct in November 2011.[10] The native Tswanan name Keitloa is used to describe a South African variation of the black rhino in which the posterior horn is equal to or longer than the anterior horn.[11]
An adult black rhinoceros stands 150–175 cm (59–69 in) high at the shoulder and is 3.5–3.9 m (11–13 ft) in length.[12] An adult weighs from 850 to 1,600 kg (1,900 to 3,500 lb), exceptionally to 1,800 kg (4,000 lb), with the females being smaller than the males. Two horns on the skull are made of keratin with the larger front horn typically 50 cm long, exceptionally up to 140 cm. Sometimes, a third smaller horn may develop. The black rhino is much smaller than the white rhino, and has a pointed mouth, which it uses to grasp leaves and twigs when feeding.
During the latter half of the 20th century their numbers were severely reduced from an estimated 70,000[13] in the late 1960s to only 2,410 in 1995.[14]
Indian rhinoceros
Main article: Indian rhinoceros
The Indian rhinoceros, or the greater one-horned rhinoceros, (Rhinoceros unicornis) is now found almost exclusively in Nepal and North-Eastern India. The rhino once inhabited many areas ranging from Pakistan to Burma and may have even roamed in China. However, because of human influence, their range has shrunk and now they only exist in several protected areas of India (in Assam, West Bengal, Gujarat and a few pairs in Uttar Pradesh) and Nepal, plus a few pairs in Lal Suhanra National Park in Pakistan. It is confined to the tall grasslands and forests in the foothills of the Himalayas.
The Indian rhinoceros has thick, silver-brown skin which creates huge folds all over its body. Its upper legs and shoulders are covered in wart-like bumps, and it has very little body hair. Fully grown males are larger than females in the wild, weighing from 2,500–3,200 kg (5,500–7,100 lb).The Indian rhino stands at 1.75–2.0 metres (5.75–6.5 ft). Female Indian rhinos weigh about 1,900 kg and are 3–4 metres long. The record-sized specimen of this rhino was approximately 3,800 kg. The Indian rhino has a single horn that reaches a length of between 20 and 100 cm. Its size is comparable to that of the white rhino in Africa.
Two-thirds of the world’s Indian rhinoceroses are now confined to the Kaziranga National Park situated in the Golaghat district of Assam, India.[15]
Javan rhinoceros
Main article: Javan rhinoceros
The Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is one of the rarest and most endangered large mammals anywhere in the world.[16] According to 2002 estimates, only about 60 remain, in Java (Indonesia) and Vietnam. Of all the rhino species, the least is known of the Javan Rhino. These animals prefer dense lowland rain forest, tall grass and reed beds that are plentiful with large floodplains and mud wallows. Though once widespread throughout Asia, by the 1930s the rhinoceros was nearly hunted to extinction in India, Burma, Peninsular Malaysia, and Sumatra for the supposed medical powers of its horn and blood. As of 2009, there are only 40 of them remaining in Ujung Kulon Conservation, Java, Indonesia. The last rhinoceros in Vietnam was reportedly killed in 2010.[17]
Like the closely related, and larger, Indian rhinoceros, the Javan rhinoceros has a single horn. Its hairless, hazy gray skin falls into folds into the shoulder, back, and rump giving it an armored-like appearance. The Javan rhino’s body length reaches up to 3.1–3.2 m (10–10 ft), including its head and a height of 1.5–1.7 m (4 ft 10 in–5 ft 7 in) tall. Adults are variously reported to weigh between 900–1,400 kg[18] or 1,360–2,000 kg.[19] Male horns can reach 26 cm in length, while in females they are knobs or are not present at all.[19]
Sumatran rhinoceros
Main article: Sumatran rhinoceros
The Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is the smallest extant rhinoceros species, as well as the one with the most hair. It can be found at very high altitudes in Borneo and Sumatra. Due to habitat loss and poaching, its numbers have declined and it is the most threatened rhinoceros. About 275 Sumatran rhinos are believed to remain.
A mature Sumatran rhino typically stands about 130 cm (51 in) high at the shoulder, with a body length of 240–315 cm (94–124 in) and weighing around 700 kg (1,500 lb), though the largest individuals have been known to weigh as much as 1,000 kilograms. Like the African species, it has two horns; the larger is the front (25–79 cm), with the smaller usually less than 10 cm long. The males have much larger horns than the females. Hair can range from dense (the densest hair in young calves) to scarce. The color of these rhinos is reddish brown. The body is short and has stubby legs. They also have a prehensile lip.
Rhinocerotoids diverged from other perissodactyls by the early Eocene. Fossils of Hyrachyus eximus found in North America date to this period. This small hornless ancestor resembled a tapir or small horse more than a rhino. Three families, sometimes grouped together as the superfamily Rhinocerotoidea, evolved in the late Eocene: Hyracodontidae, Amynodontidae and Rhinocerotidae.
Hyracodontidae, also known as ‘running rhinos’, showed adaptations for speed, and would have looked more like horses than modern rhinos. The smallest hyracodontids were dog-sized; the largest was Indricotherium, believed to be one of the largest land mammals that ever existed. The hornless Indricotherium was almost seven metres high, ten metres long, and weighed as much as 15 tons. Like a giraffe, it ate leaves from trees. The hyracodontids spread across Eurasia from the mid-Eocene to early Miocene.
The Amynodontidae, also known as "aquatic rhinos", dispersed across North America and Eurasia, from the late Eocene to early Oligocene. The amynodontids were hippopotamus-like in their ecology and appearance, inhabiting rivers and lakes, and sharing many of the same adaptations to aquatic life as hippos.
The family of all modern rhinoceros, the Rhinocerotidae, first appeared in the Late Eocene in Eurasia. The earliest members of Rhinocerotidae were small and numerous; at least 26 genera lived in Eurasia and North America until a wave of extinctions in the middle Oligocene wiped out most of the smaller species. However, several independent lineages survived. Menoceras, a pig-sized rhinoceros, had two horns side-by-side. The North American Teleoceras had short legs, a barrel chest and lived until about 5 million years ago. The last rhinos in the Americas became extinct during the Pliocene.
Modern rhinos are believed to have began dispersal from Asia during the Miocene. Two species survived the most recent period of glaciation and inhabited Europe as recently as 10,000 years ago: the woolly rhinoceros and Elasmotherium. The woolly rhinoceros appeared in China around 1 million years ago and first arrived in Europe around 600,000 years ago. It reappeared 200,000 years ago, alongside the woolly mammoth, and became numerous. Eventually it was hunted to extinction by early humans. Elasmotherium, also known as the giant rhinoceros, survived through the middle Pleistocene: it was two meters tall, five meters long and weighed around five tons, with a single enormous horn, hypsodont teeth and long legs for running.
Of the extant rhinoceros species, the Sumatran rhino is the most archaic, first emerging more than 15 million years ago. The Sumatran rhino was closely related to the woolly rhinoceros, but not to the other modern species. The Indian rhino and Javan rhino are closely related and form a more recent lineage of Asian rhino. The ancestors of early Indian and Javan rhino diverged 2–4 million years ago.[21]
The origin of the two living African rhinos can be traced back to the late Miocene (6 mya) species Ceratotherium neumayri. The lineages containing the living species diverged by the early Pliocene (1.5 mya), when Diceros praecox, the likely ancestor of the black rhinoceros, appears in the fossil record.[22] The black and white rhinoceros remain so closely related that they can still mate and successfully produce offspring.
In the wild, adult rhinoceros have few natural predators other than humans. Young rhinos can fall prey to predators such as big cats, crocodiles, wild dogs, and hyenas. Although rhinos are of a large size and have a reputation for being tough, they are actually very easily poached; because it visits water holes daily, the rhinoceros is easily killed while taking a drink. As of December 2009 poaching has been on a global increase whilst efforts to protect the rhinoceros are considered increasingly ineffective. The worst estimate, that only 3% of poachers are successfully countered, is reported of Zimbabwe. Rhino horn is considered to be particularly effective on fevers and even "life saving" by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, which in turn provides a sales market. Nepal is apparently alone in avoiding the crisis while poacher-hunters grow ever more sophisticated.[26] South African officials are calling for urgent action against rhinoceros poaching after poachers killed the last female rhinoceros in the Krugersdorp Game Reserve near Johannesburg.[27] Statistics from South African National Parks show a record 333 rhinoceros have been killed in 2010.[28]
Horns

Rhinoceros horns, unlike those of other horned mammals (which have a bony core), only consist of keratin. Rhinoceros horns are used in traditional Asian medicine, and for dagger handles in Yemen and Oman. Esmond Bradley Martin has reported on the trade for dagger handles in Yemen.[29]
One repeated misconception is that rhinoceros horn in powdered form is used as an aphrodisiac in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as Cornu Rhinoceri Asiatici It is, in fact, prescribed for fevers and convulsions.[30] Neither have been proven by evidence-based medicine. Discussions with TCM practitioners to reduce its use have met with mixed results since some TCM doctors see rhinoceros horn as a life-saving medicine of better quality than substitutes.[31] China has signed the CITES treaty however, and removed rhinoceros horn from the Chinese medicine pharmacopeia, administered by the Ministry of Health, in 1993. In 2011 in the United Kingdom, the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine issued a formal statement condemning the use of rhinoceros horn.[32] A growing number of TCM educators have also spoken out against the practice.[33] To prevent poaching, in certain areas, rhinos have been tranquilized and their horns removed. Armed park rangers, particularly in South Africa, are also working on the front lines to combat poaching, sometimes killing poachers who are caught in the act. A recent spike in rhino killings has made conservationaists concerned about the future of rhino species. During 2011 448 rhino were killed for their horn in South Africa alone.[34] The horn is incredibly valuable: an average sized horn can bring in much as a quarter of a million dollars in Vietnam and many rhino range States have stockpiles of rhino horn.[35][36] Still, poaching is hitting record levels due to demands from China and Vietnam.[37]
Historical representations

Albrecht Dürer created a famous woodcut of a rhinoceros in 1515, based on a written description and brief sketch by an unknown artist of an Indian rhinoceros that had arrived in Lisbon earlier that year. Dürer never saw the animal itself and, as a result, Dürer’s Rhinoceros is a somewhat inaccurate depiction.
There are legends about rhinoceros stamping out fire in Malaysia, India, and Burma. The mythical rhinoceros has a special name in Malay, badak api, where badak means rhinoceros and api means fire. The animal would come when a fire is lit in the forest and stamp it out.[38] There are no recent confirmations of this phenomenon. However, this legend has been reinforced by the film The Gods Must Be Crazy, where an African rhinoceros is shown to be putting out two campfires.
Conservation
International Rhino Foundation
Save the Rhino
Nicolaas Jan van Strien
Individual rhinoceroses
Abada
Clara
Rhinoceros of Versailles
See also: Fictional Rhinoceroses
Other
Rhinoceroses in ancient China
A wine vessel in the form of a bronze rhinoceros with silver inlay, from the Western Han (202 BC – 9 AD) period of China, sporting a saddle on its back
A rhinoceros depicted on a Roman mosaic in Villa Romana del Casale, an archeological site near Piazza Armerina in Sicily, Italy
Dürer’s Rhinoceros, in a woodcut from 1515
Monk with rhinoceros horn. Samye, Tibet, 1938.
Indricotherium, the extinct "giant giraffe" rhinoceros. It stood 18 feet tall at the shoulder and weighed up to 20 tonnes (22 short tons).
Coelodonta, the extinct woolly rhinoceros
The thick dermal armour of the Rhinoceros evolved at the same time as shearing tusks[20]
The Sumatran rhinoceros is the smallest of the rhino species
Smaller in size than the Indian rhinoceros, the Javan rhinoceros also have a single horn
The Indian rhinoceros has a single horn
The black rhinoceros has a beak shaped lip and is similar in color to the white rhinoceros
The white rhinoceros is actually grey
Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) at the Saint Louis Zoo
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Infraclass:Eutheria
Order:Perissodactyla
Suborder:Ceratomorpha
Superfamily:Rhinocerotoidea
Family:Rhinocerotidae
Gray, 1820
Extant Genera
Ceratotherium
Dicerorhinus
Diceros
Rhinoceros
Extinct genera, see text

NEW DELHI: A total of 631 animals, including 19 rhinos, died in the recent floods in Kaziranga National Park of Assam, the Rajya Sabha was informed today.

In a written reply to the House, forest and environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan also said that flood is a natural and recurring phenomenon in Kaziranga and it creates a variety of habitats for different species.

"Mortality of wild animals due to flood has been reported during the year only in Kaziranga Tiger Reserve. As reported by the state, a total of 631 animal deaths, including 19 rhinos, have occurred in Kaziranga due to excess water brought by the flood during June-July 2012," she said.

She also informed the House that the flooding results in damage to infrastructure such as roads, anti-poaching camps, artificial high grounds.

"Similar high floods of 1988 and 1998 recorded animal mortality of 1203 and 652 respectively," Natarajan said.

Replying to a separate question on tiger deaths reported in Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand, she said from 2008 till now, there are 19 such incidents of the big cats dying due to natural and other causes.

She said only two incidents of poaching were reported from the national park.

In reply to another question on Tiger Project, she said, "The country level tiger population, estimated once in every four years using the refined methodology, is 1706."

While the lower limit of the tiger population is estimated to be 1520, the upper limit has been fixed at 1909.

Providing details of the ‘India State Survey of Forest Report 2011′, Natarajan told the House that "Forest and tree cover in the country is 78.29 million hectare, which is 23.81 per cent of the total geographical cover. This includes 2.76 per cent of tree cover."

On the forest cover in hilly and tribal areas, she said, "In the hill and tribal districts of the country, a decrease in forest dover of 548 sq km and 679 sq km respectively has been reported as compared to the previous assessment."

The northeastern states account for one-fourth of the country’s forest cover but, "A decline of 549 sq km in forest cover as compared to the previous assessment", she said.

Replying to a query on mangrove cover in the country, Natarajan said there has been an increase of 23.34 sq km during the same period.
More expensive than cocaine, rhino horn is now the party drug of choice among Vietnam’s young things.

Instead of a razor blade and mirror, a textured ceramic bowl is used for grinding down rhinoceros horn into a powder to be mixed with water or wine.

Rhino horn is made of keratin, the same protein as fingernails. Scientists say it has no medicinal value, and users aren’t getting high. The belief in Vietnam is that drinking a tonic made from the horn will detoxify the body after a night of heavy boozing, and prevent a hangover. One Vietnamese news website described rhino horn wine as “the alcoholic drink of millionaires.”

This is the latest twist in South Africa’s devastating rhino poaching crisis, which began with a sudden boom in illegal killings of the endangered animal in 2008 and has worsened every year since. Demand among the newly wealthy in Vietnam is the root of the problem, says TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring group.

Tom Milliken, a rhino expert with TRAFFIC, said that in Vietnam, offering your friends rhino horn at a party has become a fashionable way to show wealth and status.

The way it happens is like this: “I would get my closest friends and we’d go into another room. I would bring out some rhino horn and we’d all take it and then come back to the party,” said Milliken, who studied the phenomenon.

A new TRAFFIC report, co-authored by Milliken, details how surging demand for horn in Vietnam, corruption in South Africa’s wildlife industry, loopholes in regulations and criminal networks have all fed into the poaching epidemic.

Vietnam’s new rich have become the world’s largest consumer group of rhino horn, spurring demand and the continued slaughter of rhinos in South Africa.

Another key group of Vietnamese consumers is people with serious illnesses, in particular cancer, who believe rhino horn can cure them despite the lack of any medical evidence. The TRAFFIC report describes the phenomenon of “rhino horn touts” stalking the corridors at hospitals, seeking out desperate patients with cancer.

An update released by South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs said that 339 rhino have been killed illegally in the country since the start of 2012, on track to be the worst year for poaching yet. There have also been 192 poaching-related arrests this year.

South Africa is the primary target for poachers because it is home to 21,000 rhinos, or more than 80 per cent of the world population.

South Africa and Vietnam are beginning to cooperate on the problem, although progress has been slow.

Vietnam’s deputy foreign affairs minister Le Loung Minh visited South Africa last week for talks on illegal trade in wildlife with his counterpart Ebrahim Ebrahim. The two governments are set to sign a memorandum of understanding that would encompass cooperation in criminal investigations. But it has taken a year of sporadic talks to reach this point — a sign of the lack of urgent action.

“South Africa has progressively scaled up its response to rhino crime,” the report noted, pointing to a plan that is being implemented and the recent increase in “high-value arrests.”

South Africa’s environment ministry hired Mavuso Msimang to bring together South Africans in private and public sectors to find the best way to save the rhino.

The project involves studying the potential legalising of the rhino horn trade, a contentious issue. “The government has done a good job of putting their effort behind the saving of the rhino,” Msimang said at the launch of the TRAFFIC report. “It’s got shortcomings, coordination is not always great, but the will to do well is with us,” he said.
Every day in South Africa, a rhinoceros will bleed to death after its horn has been hacked off by poachers. The horns are sold on the black market in Asia, mostly in Vietnam, where they’re believed to have powerful medicinal properties. Dutch veterinarian Martine van Zijl Langhout works together with local wardens to try and protect this threatened species.

Van Zijll Langhout stalks as quietly as possible through the tall grass at Mauricedale Park in the east of South Africa near the famous Kruger Park. She pulls back the trigger on her special tranquiliser rifle, takes aim and fires. The rhinoceros in her sights wobbles groggily for a few minutes before sinking onto its knees and rolling unconscious onto its side. Van Zijll Langhout and her team, carrying a chainsaw, approach the animal cautiously.

Brutal killings
There are some 20,000 rhinos in South Africa, 80 percent of the world population. And every day these animals are slaughtered savagely by poachers. First the rhino is shot to bring it down, and then the horn is hacked off with axes and machetes. The poachers cut as deeply into the animal’s head as possible. Every extra centimetre of horn means more money in their pockets. In 2007, thirteen rhinos in South Africa fell victim to poachers. Last year that number had soared to 448, and the toll so far this year is 312.

Reducing risk
Loud snoring can be heard. The vet blindfolds the rhinoceros and then the park manager starts up the chainsaw and proceeds to slice into the beast’s horn. Van Zijll Langhout monitors its breathing: “This is one way to stop the poachers” she explains. “They want as much horn as possible so rhinos with a small horn are a less attractive target”.

Van Zijll Langhout came to South Africa in 1997 when she was still a student and worked at Kruger Park with lions, elephants and rhinos. She knew she’d found her dream job, and five years ago she returned as a qualified vet. “It’s an unquenchable passion, such an adventure, and every day is different,” she says, “It’s such a privilege to work with African animals and an honour to be able to do something for them”.

No better option
The preventive removal of the rhinoceros’ horn takes about ten minutes. Van Zijll Langhout, an energetic woman in her thirties with wildly curly hair, compares the process to clipping nails or having a haircut: “It’s completely painless; we cut above the blood vessels”. Again she checks the animal’s breathing as its snores echo through the bush. “It’s not nice that we have to do this, but I don’t really see a better option”, she sighs, “and the horn does grow back, otherwise we wouldn’t do it.” The fact that visitors to the park might be disappointed and expect to see rhinos complete with proud curving horns doesn’t bother her: “What matters is the animals’ survival”.

Organised crime
The fight against poaching is a difficult one. “These are professional criminals”, explains Van Zijll Langhout. “This isn’t about poor locals living in huts. Poachers have advanced weapons and sometimes even use helicopters.” The horns are worth more than their weight in gold, so it’s a lucrative trade for organised crime syndicates.

The horn falls to the ground; the team will preserve it and register it. The rhino is given an injection. Within minutes he’s back on his feet and walking off into the bush. His newly weightless head is no guarantee of safety though. A rhino was poached in the park the same week as the horns were sawn off. Even the stump that remains after the procedure is worth big money.
Both black and white rhinoceroses are actually gray. They are different not in color but in lip shape. The black rhino has a pointed upper lip, while its white relative has a squared lip. The difference in lip shape is related to the animals’ diets. Black rhinos are browsers that get most of their sustenance from eating trees and bushes. They use their lips to pluck leaves and fruit from the branches. White rhinos graze on grasses, walking with their enormous heads and squared lips lowered to the ground.

White rhinos live on Africa’s grassy plains, where they sometimes gather in groups of as many as a dozen individuals. Females reproduce only every two and a half to five years. Their single calf does not live on its own until it is about three years old.

Under the hot African sun, white rhinos take cover by lying in the shade. Rhinos are also wallowers. They find a suitable water hole and roll in its mud, coating their skin with a natural bug repellent and sun block.

Rhinos have sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell. They may find one another by following the trail of scent each enormous animal leaves behind it on the landscape.

White rhinos have two horns, the foremost more prominent than the other. Rhino horns grow as much as three inches (eight centimeters) a year, and have been known to grow up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) long. Females use their horns to protect their young, while males use them to battle attackers.

The prominent horn for which rhinos are so well known has been their downfall. Many animals have been killed for this hard, hair-like growth, which is revered for medicinal use in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The horn is also valued in North Africa and the Middle East as an ornamental dagger handle.

The white rhino once roamed much of sub-Saharan Africa, but today is on the verge of extinction due to poaching fueled by these commercial uses. Only about 11,000 white rhinos survive in the wild, and many organizations are working to protect this much loved animal.Fast Facts

Type:
Mammal
Diet:
Herbivore
Size:
Head and body, 11 to 13.75 ft (3.4 to 4.2 m); tail, 20 to 27.5 in (50 to 70 cm)
Weight:
3,168 to 7,920 lbs (1,440 to 3,600 kg)
Protection status:
Endangered
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Both black and white rhinoceroses are actually gray. They are different not in color but in lip shape. The black rhino has a pointed upper lip, while its white relative has a squared lip. The difference in lip shape is related to the animals’ diets. Black rhinos are browsers that get most of their sustenance from eating trees and bushes. They use their lips to pluck leaves and fruit from the branches. White rhinos graze on grasses, walking with their enormous heads and squared lips lowered to the ground.

Except for females and their offspring, black rhinos are solitary. Females reproduce only every two and a half to five years. Their single calf does not live on its own until it is about three years old.

Black rhinos feed at night and during the gloaming hours of dawn and dusk. Under the hot African sun, they take cover by lying in the shade. Rhinos are also wallowers. They often find a suitable water hole and roll in its mud, coating their skin with a natural bug repellent and sun block.

Rhinos have sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell. They may find one another by following the trail of scent each enormous animal leaves behind it on the landscape.

Black rhinos boast two horns, the foremost more prominent than the other. Rhino horns grow as much as three inches (eight centimeters) a year, and have been known to grow up to five feet (one and a half meters) long. Females use their horns to protect their young, while males use them to battle attackers.

The prominent horn for which rhinos are so well known has also been their downfall. Many animals have been killed for the hard, hairlike growth, which is revered for medicinal uses in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The horn is also valued in North Africa and the Middle East as an ornamental dagger handle.

The black rhino once roamed most of sub-Saharan Africa, but today is on the verge of extinction due to poaching fueled by commercial demand.
The rifle shot boomed through the darkening forest just as Damien Mander arrived at his campfire after a long day training game ranger recruits in western Zimbabwe’s Nakavango game reserve. His thoughts flew to Basta, a pregnant black rhinoceros, and her two-year-old calf. That afternoon one of his rangers had discovered human footprints following the pair’s tracks as Basta sought cover in deep bush to deliver the newest member of her threatened species.

Damien, a hard-muscled former Australian Special Forces sniper with an imposing menagerie of tattoos, including "Seek & Destroy" in gothic lettering across his chest, swiveled his head, trying to place the direction of the shot. "There, near the eastern boundary," he pointed into the blackness. "Sounded like a .223," he said, identifying the position and caliber, a habit left over from 12 tours in Iraq. He and his rangers grabbed shotguns, radios, and medical kits and piled into two Land Cruisers. They roared into the night, hoping to cut off the shooter. The rangers rolled down their windows and listened for a second shot, which would likely signal Basta’s calf was taken as well.

It was an ideal poacher’s setup: half-moon, almost no wind. The human tracks were especially ominous. Poaching crews often pay trackers to find the rhinos, follow them until dusk, then radio their position to a shooter with a high-powered rifle. After the animal is down, the two horns on its snout are hacked off in minutes, and the massive carcass is left to hyenas and vultures. Nearly always the horns are fenced to an Asian buyer; an enterprising crew might also cut out Basta’s fetus and the eyes of the mother and calf to sell to black magic or muti practitioners. If this gang was well organized, a group of heavily armed men would be covering the escape route, ready to ambush the rangers.

As the Land Cruiser bucked over rutted tracks, Damien did a quick calculation—between his vehicles he had two antiquated shotguns with about a dozen shells. Based on the sound of the shot, the poachers held an advantage in firepower. If the rangers did pick up a trail and followed on foot, they would have to contend with lions, leopards, and hyenas out hunting in the dark.

In the backseat of one of the speeding Land Cruisers, Benzene, a Zimbabwean ranger who had spent nearly a year watching over Basta and her calf and knew the pair intimately, loaded three shells into his shotgun, flicked on the safety, and chambered a round. As we bounced into the night, he said, "It is better for the poachers if they meet a lion than if they meet us."

AND SO GOES A NIGHT on the front lines of southern Africa’s ruthless and murky rhino war, which since 2006 has seen more than a thousand rhinos slaughtered, some 22 poachers gunned down and more than 200 arrested last year in South Africa alone. At the bloody heart of this conflict is the rhino’s horn, a prized ingredient in traditional Asian medicines. Though black market prices vary widely, as of last fall dealers in Vietnam quoted prices ranging from $33 to $133 a gram, which at the top end is double the price of gold and can exceed the price of cocaine.

Although the range of the two African species—the white rhino and its smaller cousin, the black rhino—has been reduced primarily to southern Africa and Kenya, their populations had shown encouraging improvement. In 2007 white rhinos numbered 17,470, while blacks had nearly doubled to 4,230 since the mid ’90s.

For conservationists these numbers represented a triumph. In the 1970s and ’80s, poaching had devastated the two species. Then China banned rhino horn from traditional medicine, and Yemen forbade its use for ceremonial dagger handles. All signs seemed to point to better days. But in 2008 the number of poached rhinos in South Africa shot up to 83, from just 13 in 2007. By 2010 the figure had soared to 333, followed by over 400 last year. Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network, found most of the horn trade now leads to Vietnam, a shift that coincided with a swell of rumors that a high-ranking Vietnamese official used rhino horn to cure his cancer.

Meanwhile in South Africa, attracted by spiraling prices—and profits—crime syndicates began adding rhino poaching to their portfolios.
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Posted by Isaac Wells on 2012-08-26 07:01:07

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